30 March 2000
Blair announces 203m aid package

By FWi staff

TONY BLAIR has announced a 203 million aid package for farmers at the Downing Street summit with industry leaders.

The package includes 26m for the restructuring of the pig industry, subject to permission being granted by the European Commission in Brussels.

The restructuring of the pig industry could be extended for a further two years, but the initial 26m is the amount available for this year.

Dairy farmers will receive 22m in agrimoney compensation to offset the strength of Sterling, which has seen milk prices plummet.

The government, which will fund 80% of the agrimoney, claims it is is the maximum amount available from Brussels. It will be paid in relation to quota.

Sheep and beef farmers will also get 22m each. They are entitled to more, but it seems ministers wanted them to receive the same as dairy farmers.

Hill farmers will receive 60m, paid mainly through payments made under the Less Favoured Areas scheme. The money will be available from early 2001.

The prime minister also pledged to seek permission from Brussels to remove the weight limit on the Over Thirty Months Scheme.

Details of this proposal are sketchy, but government officials estimated that removing the limit is worth 20m.

In a further move, 1m of dairy hygiene inspection will be removed in England. The charges will be lifted in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr Blair also pledged to encourage farmers to join agri-environment schemes and pledged to review BSE controls after the BSE Inquiry report is published.

He promised that the government would remove red-tape by avoiding “gold-plating” European legislation by introducing UK rules ahead of the rest of Europe.

In total, 188m of the aid package will come from the ministry of agriculture. A further 15m of government money will encourage farmers to diversify.